Dan Coats, Senseless on Russia

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Russia’s area is 6.602 million square miles. Crimea’s area is 10,077 square miles or 0.01077 million square miles. That’s a little smaller than the size of Massachusetts, which among states is 44th out of 50 in its area. Crimea is 0.16 percent of Russia’s size. Russia is 613 times larger than Crimea. Why is Coats so bent out of shape about Crimea’s decision to join Russia? It can’t be the size. It cannot be an issue of borders. After all, it was not long ago when Crimea was in the Soviet Union. It can’t be that the Crimeans voted to join Russia. After all, that was democracy in action.

It can’t be that Russia is intent on acquiring land. Russia doesn’t need or want more land. It’s big enough as it is and sparsely populated at that, with only 143.5 million people. The U.S. has 325 million in an area that’s 57% that of Russia, and many parts of the U.S. are sparsely populated.

Crimea is strategically important to Russia because of its location on the Black Sea. Is Coats unhappy that Russia has not been denied this access? This can’t be the reason because Russia had a long-term lease giving it access and Russia has economic leverage over Ukraine.

What Coats as mind reader has actually said is this. “Putin has imperial ambitions motivated by his pathological insecurities in a quest to restore lost glories.” Where’s the evidence to support this allegation? Russia can no more support quixotic imperial adventures than the U.S. can afford another Iraq or Afghanistan. Even a peaceful joining of Crimea to Russia is going to cost Russia quite a lot. Putin’s clear aim was to secure the Black Sea ports when it appeared that Ukraine might join NATO. Putin’s aim was not imperial extension but the maintenance of a neighboring region in its orbit against western advances. Coats is misreading Putin badly. What he is saying makes no sense.

Coats also has said the following to explain his sanctions position: “I think we should use all the leverage that we have to make sure the Russians understand this is a breach of international law. This is something that’s not acceptable.”

How condescending can you get? “We” understand international law but the Russians don’t. “Listen, you dummies. You’re lawbreakers, and we’re going to sanction you until you ‘understand’ this. Better still, observe our own behavior. We never breach international law. No, never. We’re the good guys. Got it?”

How is Coats supposed to know when the Russians understand this? When will sanctions end? Under what conditions? What if they happen to disagree and think they have not breached international law? What if international law is not a high priority in this instance compared to other priorities? What makes the U.S. government into the enforcer of international law in this or any instance?

One might be forgiven for thinking that Coats is as foolish as Hillary Clinton and a number of others in Washington and elsewhere with like views.

If I were an important enough voice, they’d label me and people like me as idealistic appeasers who are out of touch with reality. They’d refer to Munich and Hitler. They’d paint Putin as an incipient madman. But I must ask. Who is more mad, Lyndon Baines Johnson who took America into an utterly senseless, unjust and immoral war in Vietnam, or Vladimir Putin? Who is more mad, George Bush who took America into an utterly senseless, unjust and immoral war in Iraq, or Vladimir Putin? Who is more mad, Barack Obama who was about to take the U.S. more directly than already into a senseless war in Syria, or Vladimir Putin who got the Syrians to dismantle their chemical weapons? (And they are right on schedule in accomplishing this.) Who is more mad, the U.S. leaders who began and continued a long war in Afghanistan, the graveyard of empires, or Vladimir Putin who has avoided such a contingency?

Come to think of it, who is more mad, Dan Coats or Vladimir Putin?

7:26 pm on March 24, 2014